DWI probe yields another guilty plea in Acadiana

A fifth person pleaded guilty Monday in an ongoing federal probe of bribes paid for favorable treatment in DWI cases.

Sandra Degeyter, 61, a former case manager at Acadiana Outreach Center, admitted to accepting cash to falsify certifications that criminal defendants had completed court-mandated community service at the nonprofit agency, which at the time provided assistance for the homeless and recovering addicts.

Degeyter faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

She provided more than 50 false community service certificates at $100 per certificate, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Another former Acadiana Outreach Center employee, 59-year-old Elaine Crump, pleaded guilty earlier this month to misprision of a felony for her involvement in the scheme. A misprision of a felony charge means a person had knowledge of a crime but did not report it.

The federal probe has also netted guilty pleas from three former employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Mike Harson’s longtime secretary and office administrator, Barna D. Haynes, 58, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy for accepting a total of $55,000 over four years to arrange special plea agreements for DWI defendants.

Greg Williams, who worked as an assistant district attorney in Harson’s office, and Williams’ secretary, Denease Curry, also have pleaded guilty in the case.

Williams, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for accepting at least one cash payment of $500 and a series of gifts, according to court filings by prosecutors.

Curry, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony and admitted accepting about $1,600 for working with Haynes to coordinate special state court plea agreements that were arranged in return for the bribes.

All five defendants have agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation, but prosecutors have declined to say how many other people have been targeted.

Court documents in the case make repeated references to “co-conspirator No. 1” as the person who paid the bribes to the employees at the District Attorney’s Office and the Acadiana Outreach Center. That person solicited “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from criminal defendants on promises of getting them special treatment, according to court filings from prosecutors.

Haynes admitted in court documents that, in return for the bribes, she routed criminal defendants into a special program in which their charges were quickly dismissed if they successfully completed certain probation requirements, such as drivers safety classes, substance abuse treatment and community service.

Degeyter and Crump are accused of providing false documentation that the community service hours had been done at Acadiana Outreach Center.

Degeyter had initially provided the documents to “co-conspirator No. 1” in 2008, according to court filings from prosecutors.

Crump took over the case manager job after Degeyter left. Degeyter asked that she be allowed to forge Crump’s signature to continue producing the false community service certificates on Acadiana Outreach letterhead, according to the court filings.

Crump agreed in return for regular cash payments from Degeyter ranging from $25 to $100, according to prosecutors.

Harson has not been implicated in the case.